Giji K. Raman
Moneylenders grab produce at a price far below market rates
KATTAPPANA: Even as the prices of vegetables are skyrocketing in the market, the farmers of Vattavada, the vegetable bowl of Kerala known for its winter cultivation, are still seeking to get a fair price for their produce. The reason for the fall in the prices is attributed to the middlemen, who lent money to the farmers during the sowing season, buying their produce at a price far below the market rate.
Farmers say that the middlemen charge exorbitant interest rates and purchase the produce at a rate fixed by them. A carrot farmer living near to the main marketing town had to sell his produce at Rs.8 a kg, when a kilogram of carrot was sold at Rs.30 in the markets in Kochi.
“The price may still go down up to Rs.6 where transportation facilities are not available,” says Ponkunju of Kottakambur. Another farmer Veeramani, from Koviloor, said he sold carrots at Rs.6 a kg.
The price received for a kilogram of potato is Rs.4.50 and a 100-kg sack fetched between Rs.450 and Rs.500 on Tuesday.
This is the main season for cabbage, carrot, beetroot and tomato, says Chinnathara Baby, Vattavada panchayat standing committee member.
Almost all vegetables grow in Vattavada where extreme climate season still prevails. The cultivation of fruits has considerably fallen owing to the decline in water sources, he said.
In Vattavada, the main areas under vegetable cultivation include Urkad, Koviloor, Kottakambur, Chelinthiyar, Pazhathottam, Kadavara, Swamiyar Vellakudi, Koodalloor Colony, Valsapetty Kudy and Melvilasam Kudy.
Though the Vegetables and Fruits Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) and the Horticulture Society had opened outlets to purchase vegetables directly from the farmers, they are not functioning now, said Mr. Baby. He added that these agencies open the marketing facilities only for a few days in the harvesting season and acquire only 10 percent of the total production.
VFPCK and the Horticulture Society opened the purchasing centres with the aim of saving the farmers from the clutches of moneylenders from Tamil Nadu, who lent money to the farmers during the sowing season.
The farmers still depend on moneylenders from Tamil Nadu or local moneylenders during the sowing season.
Mr. Chinnathara said that though the farmers in the Vattavada grama panchayat grow all vegetables, they never get a remunerative price for their produce.
Vattavada is known for the cultivation of all seasonal vegetables and is the only place where garlic is grown in large scale.